Canadian guitarist Ryan Davidson knew what his mission in life was going to be since grade school. What he has been searching for is the means to make it happen. As he recalls, "I believe I started playing when I was six, and began lessons at eight. Truthfully, I don't have any memories of not playing the guitar. All I can remember is that it was all I ever wanted to do."
Born in Edmonton, Canada, Davidson acquired a Master of Music in Jazz Studies from the Universityof North Texaswhere he also taught guitar from 2008 to 2009. He continued his role as music educator in 2010 when holding a music clinic at Canada's Saint Francis Xavier in Nova Scotia. Davidson's foray into the music industry began as a studio musician for such notable recording artists as Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Asleep at the Wheel's Dave Alexander, Chris Cummings and Jason Blaine to name but a few.
Davidson discusses how his experience as a studio musician prepared him to record his debut album in collaboration with his trio, bassist Ryan Hagler and drummer Ryan Jacobi. "I had done a fair amount of studio work in the country music market and also a handful of jazz recordings" he explains. "Some of that experience prepared me for the technical aspect of this recording, for example time management and equipment etc. However, because this was my first album of my own music, nothing prepared me for the pressure I felt when we got to the studio. Hagler, Jacobi and engineer Jim Meyer made the experience much more relaxed and were patient with me and my stress."
The album is named after the trio and Davidson expands on how he first met his band-mates. "I first heard Ryan Hagler play with the One O'clock Lab Band. He is an extraordinary bassist and musician. Later, when I was a member of the One O'clock, it was obvious to me that I had to find any excuse to play with him that I could. I knew I had to use him on this record."
He adds, "In my first month at University of NorthTexas, I had to play in front of the guitar department. I asked some people who the best drummer around was and Ryan Jacobi's name came up. He is a great drummer and musician. It wasn't until a few years later that we were able to reconnect on this project. He was perfect for it. Both Hagler and Jacobi are dedicated to excellence in music and are good friends."
Davidson looks back to when he began toying with the idea of making a solo album. "I had been thinking of recording an album for some time. The reason for not recording before now was that I felt I was not playing at a level worth noting permanently on a recording. Then I realized that it was more important to leave something behind in this world, than to leave it, wishing I had."
The opening track on the album is 'Ghost Riders in the Sky' and as he recounts "I had always wanted to play this song from a young age. While I was participating in a western swing clinic, in Lawton, Oklahoma with Dave Alexander, I had mulled over the idea of doing a re-harmonized version of the song in 5/4. Dave has played with Asleep at the Wheel, George Strait, Toby Keith and LeAnn Rimes. I woke up in the middle of the night in my hotel room and wrote the entire thing out on tiny, yellow sticky notes. At 2-00 AM they were all I had. I then stuck them on the night stand in the right order and put it all in the computer the next day. The trio began playing it at shows shortly after."
Another of the album's cover tunes is 'Im Wunderschonen Monat Mai' and, as he recollects "there were a few factors why he I chose this number. I grew up playing classical guitar and have always loved romantic period music. I had the privilege of studying and playing with bassist Lynn Seaton for four months. It consisted of jazz only arrangements of classical pieces. This piece was one of those that we played. Most importantly, I met my girlfriend Zandrie in May and I wrote this arrangement for her. The title is translated roughly, 'In The Wonderful Month Of May.' I play it often. In the future there may be an album of only romantic period pieces but when and if this happens remains a mystery."
Two outstanding, original pieces on the album are 'Out of Nowhere' and 'Texas Oracle' which are a blend of country, jazz and, in the case of the latter, pure rock. Davidson starts by describing the making of 'Texas Oracle' which rings like an anthem. "I had written this piece for my teacher Fred Hamilton. He always had a subtle and interesting way of pushing me to become better. I think he told me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear. He is a good friend and mentor. Although I am not a rock and roll guitarist by any stretch of the imagination, I love the genre and wanted to write something to show my respect for it. The outro is 'Out of Nowhere', a jazz standard that is also on the record in a different arrangement. The truth is, on the second day of recording, we had some technical issues. Ryan Hagler and Ryan Jacobi had to make an impromptu, music store run. I had the studio time to myself and wanted to make the most of it. I recorded the hidden track 'Out of Nowhere' and 'Round Midnight' while some gear was being fixed."
He reveals, "The song choices were a collaborative effort. Our live shows probably consisted of about three times the amount of material than was used on the record. The song choices seemed obvious to all three of us."
The trio has double duty on the recording, first as the musicians and second as the producers. Davidson expands, "I knew it would be difficult to fill both of these roles pretty early on. To make it easier, all three of us decided to fulfill the role of producer. We used the 'veto' method. That is, if two out of three of us had a good take and one person didn't, we kept it. Also, the 'energy' of each take was considered. We all agreed that the best takes were the ones that sounded organic and on edge, instead of contrived and safe. Of the thirteen hours of music we recorded, only forty minutes or so made the CD. Most of the best music was in the first couple of takes."
He speculates, "The trio will hopefully record for years to come. I have enough material to record a new record in 2012 with touring to follow."
The Ryan Davidson Trio is on its way to widening the scope of country music by adding elements of jazz. They have been paving their own way which has been a challenge but is a challenge that they have accepted wholeheartedly. While still maintaining time-honored traditions of country music, they exercise their freedom to improvise. In doing so they are planting the seed for fertile new ground that is sure to attract those who follow.